State Roundup October 11, 2019

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B’MORE POLICE DISTRICTS TO CHANGE: The Baltimore Police Department’s nine districts are expected to take new shapes in 2021 following the 2020 Census due to a new state law, reports Jessica Anderson in the Sun. The legislation says the police department has one year after the census to submit a plan to the mayor and City Council for their approval.

  • Supporters of a pair of state laws that went on the books this month (including the district redrawing) said they’ll eventually improve Baltimore police operations, reports Adam Bednar in The Daily Record. The law calls for the police commissioner to redistrict as well as modify staffing and redirect resources following the decennial census. Another law requires the city to hire a greater percentage of civilian employees to free up officers from administrative tasks.
  • The two new laws are being welcomed by community leaders and public officials because they will improve efficiency, reports John Rydell for WBFF. Despite a recent recruitment campaign, the police department is still about 500 officers short of capacity.

PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS COULD BE IMPACTED: State fiscal leaders are keeping an eye on potential reporting requirements that could affect the use of public-private partnerships for large government projects, reports Bryan Sears in The Daily Record. Some worry a potential requirement to count them as debt could ultimately lower the capacity to borrow through more traditional government obligation bonds or even affect the state’s coveted Triple-A bond rating.

TOP LOBBYIST PAID $2.39 MILLION: Timothy Perry of government relations firm Perry, White, Ross & Jacobson LLC remains the highest-paid lobbyist in Maryland, reports Maria Sieron in the Baltimore Business Journal. The article lists the five highest-paid lobbyists in Maryland, ranked by total compensation.

MD ATTRACTS FUNDRAISERS: Because of its late primary and relatively small size, Maryland does not typically attract presidential candidates for campaign rallies, reports Jeff Barker for the Sun. But there is more than enough wealth and political activism in the state to lure candidates for fundraisers.

STUDENT DATA PRIVACY: After a recent state audit showed that Maryland needs to do a better job of protecting student’s personal records, the state has formed a student data privacy council to help address the issue, reports Tim Tooten for WBAL-TV.

MD SILENT ON GUN RIGHTS CHALLENGE: The Maryland Attorney General’s Office will take a wait-and-see approach to a U.S. Supreme Court challenge by gun rights advocates, reports Steve Lash with The Daily Record. The suit objects to the Maryland handgun permit law’s requirement that applicants provide the state with a “good and substantial reason” to carry a handgun outside the home.

HOGAN TROUBLED BY TRUMP: Gov. Larry Hogan said Thursday that he’s “very troubled” by the actions of President Donald Trump that are being investigated in a congressional impeachment inquiry, reports Pamela Wood in the Sun. Speaking at an event in New York City hosted by Yahoo! Finance, Hogan said that “it doesn’t sit well with me” that Trump’s White House has ignored subpoenas and refused to cooperate with the inquiry.

HARRIS, CUMMINGS ON BIG NEWS STORIES: Rep. Andy Harris was open and honest about his opinions of the situation the president is in and what is going on around the world, reports Lowell Melser on media rounds for WBAL-TV. He said the impeachment calls would eventually go away.

  • Rep. Elijah Cummings has been absent from Capitol Hill for a medical procedure, but his absence hasn’t stopped him from participating in impeachment proceedings, reports Robin Bravender for Maryland Matters. He has been in regular contact with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other lawmakers, and his friends and colleagues expect him to remain a central player in the political drama playing out on Capitol Hill.

LEADERS CONTEMPLATE BIG TRANSPORTATION ISSUES:  Metro is looking into whether there is technology that could be installed on trains to prevent a crash such as the one that took place early Monday, reports Justin George in the Post.

  • The Queen Anne’s County Commissioners this week weighed in on the severe traffic backups caused by a $27 million deck rehabilitation construction project on Chesapeake Bay Bridge, writes Kevin Kinnally with Conduit Street, the blog of the Maryland Association of Counties. The right lane of the westbound span is closed from October to April, with additional closures Monday through Friday in May.
  • Montgomery County lawmakers are expressing their “extreme disappointment” with the Maryland Department of Transportation’s decision to remove a long-planned rapid bus transit line from the state’s list of funded priority projects, reports Bruce DePuyt with Maryland Matters.

IMMIGRANT GROUPS WORK TO HELP KEEP BENEFITS: The Trump administration’s new public charge rule, which makes it more difficult for immigrants to get green cards if it looks like they might need public assistance, is set to go into effect on Oct. 15, reports Pam Kessler with WYPR-FM. There are ongoing attempts to block it, but there’s already widespread confusion over how the rule would work. Advocacy groups are trying to get the message out about what the rule actually requires so people don’t go without needed medical, housing and nutrition assistance.

ANOTHER EARLY VOTING SITE IN MOCO: The Maryland State Board of Elections ordered Montgomery County to propose an early voting site, reports Kathleen Stubbs in the Montgomery Sentinel. The county board of elections had voted back in September not to pursue a 12th early voting site for the 2020 presidential elections, emphasizing the cost it would create.

GARRETT CO FIRE DEPT GETS GRANT: Nearly $1 million in federal funding has been announced for the Bittinger Volunteer Fire Department on behalf of all of the volunteer fire and rescue companies in the county to purchase new communications equipment, reports Brenda Ruggiero in the Garrett County Republican.

SMITH ONE STEP CLOSER TO MAYOR’S RACE: T.J. Smith, the former Baltimore Police and Baltimore County spokesman who has previously expressed interest in a possible run for mayor, filed paperwork this week to form a campaign committee for 2020 — moving him one step closer to candidacy, reports Kevin Rector with the Sun. Smith, 42, has not officially announced a campaign and left blank a box on the committee paperwork for “office sought.”

ELIMINATING LEAD-BASED PAINT HAZARDS: Lead-based paint in Baltimore will be addressed with $9.7 million in federal funding, reports the AFRO staff. The funding, awarded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, will allow Baltimore to work to eliminate lead-based paint hazards in low-income private housing.

ENCOURAGING CENSUS PARTICIPATION: Montgomery County is taking unprecedented steps to encourage participation in the 2020 Census, reports Kate Masters for Bethesda Beat. The Maryland Department of Planning recently awarded the county $581,700 to expand efforts to reach undercounted residents, part of a $5 million statewide funding package for 53 local jurisdictions and agencies.

BIG SOLAR PROJECT BREAKS GROUND: A 6.6-megawatt community solar project in Fort Washington that just broke ground will serve 1,200 subscribers making it what its owners believe to be the largest residential community solar project in the country, reports Jessica Ricks in the Prince George’s Sentinel. It is part of the Pepco service territory.

LAST COLUMBUS DAY IN PG: In Prince George’s County, next Monday will be the last official Columbus Day holiday ever, reports Josh Kurtz in Maryland Matters. Not that there still won’t be a holiday on the second Monday in October. It will henceforth be known as Native American Day.

PG PIT BULL BAN MAY BE LIFTED: A Prince George’s County Council committee on Thursday advanced an amendment to animal-control legislation that would repeal the county’s 22-year-old ban on pit bulls, reports Rachel Chason in the Post. A majority of the 11-member council still appears to support or be undecided on the ban, which a national coalition of animal rights advocates has labeled ineffective and inhumane.

CANNABIS DEGREE DRAWS APPLICANTS: A two-year program master’s program at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, presumed to be the country’s first cannabis degree program, draws 500 applicants, reports Morgan Eichensehr in the Baltimore Business Journal.